Ex-Warriors enforcer Kevin Campion urges Stephen Kearney to find mean streak
Former Warriors hardman Kevin Campion has urged Stephen Kearney to get ruthless as the coach tries to instil a winning culture at the club.
While a five-match losing streak has seen the Warriors miss the finals for a sixth-straight season, whether though injuries or a lack of better options, Kearney has been reluctant to swing the axe through his struggling side.
Veteran hooker Issac Luke has been demoted for Sunday's game against Canberra but, at this stage, he has only been benched and there have been very few examples this year of Kearney sidelining a high-profile player down on form.
But Campion, who is now based on the Gold Coast, believes a shake-up of the roster is exactly what the club needs.
Despite only spending two seasons at Mt Smart, the tough-as-teak back-rower achieved cult status amongst the fans and is widely credited for instilling an uncompromising attitude that transformed the Warriors from easy beats to grand finalists in 2002.
A big part of that process came down to player accountability, regardless of what pay packet they were on.
"Stephen's only a relatively young coach and he's got some superstars in that side on big money," Campion told Stuff.
"He's got to make examples, even of his superstars, of those who are not performing. Show them who is boss and what's expected of them in that team.
"You've got to treat everyone equal in those circumstances, if they're not performing then they go back to reserve grade where they can work their way back into the side. These days all players know that no matter what they're going to get paid, it's not like our day when I had to play 20 games to get $1500 when I first started."
Campion played 241 first grade across six clubs, winning two premierships at the Broncos in 1998 and 2000, but he still follows the Warriors closely.
He revealed he spoke to managing director Jim Doyle and former head coach Andrew McFadden about coming on board as a defensive consultant at the start of last season, only for the club to go in a different direction with the hiring of Justin Morgan, who has since been let go.
"I was really, really excited to come into that role and help out and I think I could've helped 'Cappy' (McFadden) out with a few things," Campion said. "Defence is one of the big things that they obviously need to work on, they struggle week in, week out with it."
There is a school of thought, particularly across the Tasman, that the Warriors generally perform well when they have a good mix of battle-hardened Australians in the squad and Campion is often cited as the perfect example.
The 45-year-old was one of seven Australian-born players to play in the 2002 grand final defeat to the Roosters, but he says it is not as simple as bringing in a bunch of Aussies.
Of the current crop, he sees players that are capable but a team that is severely lacking in trust, both in themselves and the structures in place.
He advised Kearney to strip it all down and go back to basics.
"I go back to my Broncos days, we had some exceptional players but we had a really basic gameplan and it hasn't changed at the Broncos for 20 years.
"They've got the best kick-chase in the competition, they work hard individually and they work hard as a team and that builds confidence.
"When I got to the Warriors we were always on the rough end of the stick, we were always expected to lose and in the end it just drove and drove us.
"We built our wins on our defence, we were so solid in the middle and we had a great attitude within our forward pack. We were really hard on our backs when they made mistakes because we were the ones always doing the tackling and it filtered through that it's not acceptable to make mistakes in that side."
Despite last year's extensive review, which resulted in sweeping changes to the coaching staff, it could be argued that the Warriors have gone backwards.
Campion was not a fan of replacing McFadden at the time but if he knows one thing, now is not the time for a knee-jerk reaction.
"I feel for Steve," Campion said. "It's very hard to go over to the Warriors and make your make so hopefully he can hang in there and hopefully they don't make any rash decisions."